As a band leader, conductor, performer and teacher, Mike Daniels has making music at WMC for many years. He's been keeping busy over lockdown, but cannot wait to get back into the Centre once again. 

We caught up with him to discuss what he's been up to for the past few months and why live music matters to him...

As soon as lockdown started, I went about discovering how to earn a living without leaving the four walls of my home office that has become a recording studio, broadcasting room and hub of Zoom, Teams and Meets sessions. Manically practising, recording and persuading I, along with many other musicians and performers faced this sea change which forced me to adapt and took it on. Most of my trumpet teaching went online immediately, which actually went extremely well with students and parents particularly appreciating the ‘normality’ of what was provided under abnormal conditions. At the same time I knew that all my other regular musical commitments could in some way be delivered online, but more importantly that contact was imperative to keep momentum going and indeed the morale of people who love, and live to make music with others.

Despite missing our concert at Easter, Jazz Factory (now nearly completing 22 years of jazz workshops at the WMC) continued on Zoom on Monday evenings from April and our numbers even went up. Two from Australia, one each from Portugal and Guernsey and all of our regulars enjoyed a term of webinars and concentrated online learning with the tutors providing innovative new ways to learn how to play jazz and produce lockdown recordings. The final virtual concert was a great success with 45 minutes of recorded videos including a massed performance of Blue Skies and In Walked Bud.

Jazz Factory Online

Jazz Factory Online

Like all groups, Cantamus Chamber Choir had to cancel concerts at Holy Trinity as well as our regular Autumn WMC event and all other plans for 2020 but we have kept going online with warm ups, singing to carefully recorded backing tracks, chats and in July took part in a live online Choir show run by Matt Finch. 350 tickets sold and 13 choirs each producing a lockdown video - Friday 21st August at 6pm is the launch for our YouTube channel with a recording of And so it goes, do sign up! 

Cantamus Recording - Premieres Friday 21st August, 6pm

And So It Goes - Cantamus Chamber Choir

In June I was utterly thrilled to get our Saturday morning workshops, the rebranded Wiltshire Jazz Academy launched with 17 young musicians cracking on with playing jazz. This partnership with NYJO has blossomed and we’re looking forward to the Autumn and a new project with WYJO. Hats off (and I’ve a few!) to Adam, James and Maud for persevering and delivering such wonderful opportunities for our promising young musicians through these adverse circumstances.

Along with all that, tutoring the Virtual WEYO course and playing and singing in numerous virtual recordings for a plethora of people, even getting together in a garden with good friends for a socially distant sing (been waiting 5 months to put that in print!), the five months that changed the world has been ok, I am an eternal optimist!

West of England Youth Orchestra Virtual Performance

West of England Youth Orchestra - 'Dragonborn' from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Soule arr. Soto)

Musicians need to create music and audiences need to listen and I’m pretty hopeful that the coming months, though equally challenging will bring them together online, and I really hope sooner rather than later, in the concert halls of the UK. When I eventually end up in front of a group of musicians making music for an audience in the WMC it won’t be too soon. To enjoy the buzz of a busy music centre and see the joy it brings is what makes the WMC what it is, a hive of creative activity with the world’s musicians at its fingertips, from the newest beginner to the most accomplished. A rare place, and one worth fighting for. 

The most important thing during lockdown has been keeping people engaged with music and the arts, whether in the frustrating world of Zoom or discovering online resources and performances because without relevant culture, society is a soulless void. Youngsters need normality in this abnormal world and it is our job to provide them with excellent guidance so they can return in the future in our live music venues.

I’ve re-found my interest in music technology as a tool to enable music making and learnt to deliver music online with only the chat box for audience feedback, and that is what is missing. However well we cope with the current situation there is no alternate to live communication. Music is a language and needs that physical closeness to experience it, just as people need closeness, not distance which is far from social!

So, I am looking forward to working with anyone I make music with again, including Wiltshire Young Musicians who, under the sterling leadership of Matthew Thorpe produced lockdown videos and I’ve arranged a version of Hymn to Freedom by Oscar Peterson for the West Wiltshire Concert Band to start in September. What better way to start our march to a better world than that?